Eighteen Months Later: an Insider’s Perspective on an Acquisition

Gareth Francey headshot

It’s been the better half of 18 months since the company I work for, Bohle America, made its first U.S. acquisition. It was back in January 2018 that we inked the deal that saw us acquire the Kansas City-based shower hardware supplier/ manufacturer Portals Hardware, and it's amazing to think back to then and compare what we thought we were going to do to where we are now.

Portals Hardware offered us a good opportunity to pick up the lucrative shower door hardware product line, which was a good addition to our glass door hardware segment that was more commercial, and European influenced. As with every acquisition, we figured it would be quicker to go out and invest in a good, well-run existing company rather than try grind it out from scratch. So, with this shiny new product line in our pocket, the first instinct that everyone had—specifically the sales-team as we are of course a sales-based organization—was to go out there and promote it to as many customers as possible.

Thinking back to that time, this was the natural human instinct to go out to the market about the news straight out of the gate that was always going to happen. We had spent so much time in the months preceding the actual deal with the negotiations and endless hours of due diligence, that we really wanted to have the release of energy and go and enjoy the opportunity with the market.

This was the hardest thing not to do, and it took the largest amount of internal energy to make sure we didn’t.

As with any company acquisition, we spent a lot of time analyzing the new company and understood that there would be work in integrating the many moving parts of one into the other. However, it was only after spending time in each other’s daily business that we understood how large a task this would be and how important it was that we got it right the first time. There were personnel dynamics coming into the equation, ERP challenges, brand positioning amongst other concepts that really needed to be worked through and could not be rushed. Our number one priority was not to cause any disruption to the market, that being our customers. Any nervous energy or sense of a hiccup to the customer experience would be perceived larger than what it actually was and we wanted to do everything possible to minimize this risk.

As a result, one of the very first major event we then decided to do post-acquisition was to form a steering committee from both organizations and meet at an off-site hotel conference room for three days and work to put a game-plan together. The goal was to come up with a clear direction and a joint mission statement that the management team could take back and use as a road map going forward. This simple mission statement concept was the key to everything: it gave us clarity in terms of where we needed to be and how long it was going to take to get there.

More importantly, it also gave us something for everyone in the organization to understand and buy into. If there is any confusion or misunderstanding, consult the mission statement and resolve it. The two-paragraph document, consisting of roughly 80 words that is now hanging on each employee’s wall, is the vision that has guided us since 2018 and will continue to do so going forward.

Eighteen months has really gone by very quickly and we have achieved a great amount of work in tying together and unpacking the synergies between the two companies. I am happy to say that all of the work achieved has been done in the background with the minimum of negative impact to each other’s existing business and customer relations. We will continue to follow our controlled, patient game plan, guided by our joint mission statement into the future and carefully get to our end goal.

As the industry becomes more and more consolidated through mergers and acquisitions, I am sure others will have similar experiences. From my perspective, the most important advice I can give is to value the customer as the number one priority and draw up a mission statement that everyone in both organizations can buy into. Keep it visible daily and use it as a road map. And more importantly, hold on tight to the reigns and enjoy the ride.

Gareth Francey is the president of Bohle America, a supplier of glazing & handling tools, hardware, consumables, and machinery, for all levels of the glass industry. Francey has been with the Bohle organization since 2001 and led the American division since 2010. Contact him at gareth.francey@bohle-america.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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